Arena Pharma lands $35M investor as it jockeys obesity drug

Arena Pharmaceuticals has lined up an injection of $35.5 million as it jockeys among a group of biotechs looking for near-term approvals of a new obesity drug. Deerfield Management, an active biotech investor, provided the cash.

The new money arrived a day after the FDA announced that an expert panel will review Arena's lorcaserin on September 16, a little more than a month before its October 22 PDUFA date. The same committee will gather on July 15 to review Qnexa, which was developed by VIVUS. And just on Tuesday the FDA accepted the NDA for Orexigen's Contrave. So far, no review date has been set for Contrave.

Their race to gain an approval has been one of the most closely watched in the biotech industry, with analysts eager to see how the developers fare with regulators in one of the most perplexing fields in the industry. Weight drugs have been bedeviled by safety problems, which may be holding Big Pharma companies back from doing licensing pacts on late-stage drugs.

"We are committed to ensuring that Arena is well capitalized as it evaluates collaborative opportunities to commercialize lorcaserin," commented James E. Flynn, a general partner for Deerfield Management. 

Without a pharma partner with deep marketing pockets, it's hard to see how a weight drug could reach anything like its full market potential.

- check out Arena's release on the Deerfield deal
- here's a story from Reuters